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Hospital Workers May Trigger Dangerous Outbreaks
Date:10/19/2009

Study finds employees who see many patients daily may be key players in spreading germs

MONDAY, Oct. 19 (HealthDay News) -- Hospital workers who see many patients may play a disproportionate role in spreading dangerous hospital-acquired infections, a new study finds.

These so-called peripatetic workers, such as radiologists or physical therapists, visit many patients in the course of a day, said Laura Temime, a researcher at the Conservatoire National des Arts et Metiers in Paris, and lead author of a study published online Oct. 19 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

"Although to my knowledge, an increased super-spreading potential of 'peripatetic' health-care workers has never really been formalized as a major hypothesis, there have been several reports of nosocomial outbreaks that have been traced back to such 'peripatetic' health-care workers," Temime said.

Her study adds to the evidence, she said. The study used a mathematical model of a hypothetical intensive care unit that was presumed free of the pathogen to see how easily hospital-based infections, such as methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) spread.

Containing these outbreaks is of grave importance, public health officials agreed.

For the study, Temime divided workers into three groups -- a nurse-like group, which made frequent visits to a small number of patients assigned to them; a physician-like group, which made infrequent visits to a larger number of patients, and the peripatetic group, which visits all patients daily, such as physical therapists.

Next, using a complex mathematical model, the researchers assumed how long the patients would stay -- an average of 10 days -- and how much exposure they would have to each of the three categories of workers, plus how compliant the workers were with hand washing.

Then they computed the impact. They found infection rates increase
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